|Native name||平賀 源内|
|Died||January 24, 1780|
|Other names||Kyūkei (鳩渓), Fūrai Sanjin (風来山人), Tenjiku rōnin (天竺浪人) and Fukuchi Kigai (福内鬼外)|
|Education||student of Rangaku|
|Occupation||physician, author, painter and inventor|
In this Japanese name, the family name is Hiraga.
Hiraga Gennai(平賀 源内, 1728 – January 24, 1780) was an Edo period Japanese pharmacologist, student of Rangaku, physician, author, painter and inventor who is well known for his Erekiteru (electrostatic generator), Kandankei (thermometer) and Kakanpu (asbestos cloth). He also wrote the satirical essay "On Farting".
Born into a low-ranking samurai family, his father was Shiraishi Mozaemon (Yoshifusa), his mother was from the Yamashita clan, and he had many siblings. His real name was Kunitomo (国倫), but he also went by the pen names Kyūkei (鳩渓), Fūrai Sanjin (風来山人) (his principal literary pen name), Tenjiku rōnin (天竺浪人) and Fukuchi Kigai (福内鬼外). He is most well known by the name "Gennai", however.
He first studied medicinal herbs in Osaka, with Toda Kyokuzan, before moving to Edo in 1757. There, he studied with Tamura Ransui, and wrote a number of books, some on scientific or nature topics, some satirical novels, in the kokkeibon and dangibon genres. In his scientific experiments, he prospected for various ores, wove asbestos, calculated temperatures, and worked with static electricity. Gennai also studied Western painting and ceramics techniques, and produced a number of works in that vein.
Interested in ores, he tried unsuccessfully a number of times to have new mines opened. On one occasion, frustrated and enraged at the repeated lack of support from the citizens of the area, he killed one of his disciples in a fit of rage. Arrested and sent to prison, he died there in 1779.
He made or instructed a number of Japanese pottery pieces which are named Gennai ware after him. The style is unique with brilliant colours, mostly three, following the Kōchi ware style.
Appearances in fiction
- Gennai appears as a scholar/inventor and cross-dressing lesbian in manga Ōoku: The Inner Chambers (2005- ) by Fumi Yoshinaga.
- In the anime OVA: Mask of Zeguy Hiraga Gennai had a prominent role (along with Hijikata Toshizo) in protecting Miki (who is a descendant of the renowned Priestess Shamus) and preventing the legendary mask from falling into the wrong hands.
- In the anime OVA: T.P. Sakura, Hiraga Gennai appears in addition to his elekiter.
- In the animeOh! Edo Rocket episode 10 it is revealed that the retired resident is Gennai. The Fūrai Row-House Block, which he says is his, is also likely a nod to one of his pen names.
- In the animeGintama, there is a mechanic known as Hiraga Gengai.
- The animeZero no Tsukaima has a character by the name of Hiraga Saito. Since Saito hails from Japan, it is speculated that he is named after Gennai.
- Gennai makes an appearance in the animeRead or Die, along with the clones of many other historical and legendary figures. In Read Or Die, Gennai uses his elekiter as a very high powered destructive weapon that he uses to destroy the White House and eradicate an entire fleet of combat helicopters.
- A giant mechanical frog is named after him in Mai-HiME.
- In the anime Flint the Time Detective, he makes an appearance with the Time Shifter Elecky as he uses it to make giant robots.
- In the Square game Live-A-Live, there is a mechanic named Gennai who is responsible for the creation of mechanical traps in the Bakumatsu Chapter. Since the setting of the chapter is the Bakumatsu era, his presence is an anachronism, but considering the additional presence of Ishikawa Goemon, Yodo-Dono, and Shiro Tokisada Amakusa, it is clear that this section of the game was intentionally designed as a mash-up of popular Japanese history.
- In the 36th episode of Kikaida 01 Hiraga Gennai is threatened by time traveling robots from 1974 disguised as ninja. The evil Shadow tends to take him to 1974 and have him help build better robots.
- In the 30th episode of Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z (ガールズとカレ!, "Girls and Him!"), a character by the name of Hiraga Kennai is responsible for the creation of a primitive form of Chemical Z and the Ōedo Chakichaki Musume. He also uses an elekiter to separate Him's soul (the black light) from his body.
- In the 13th episode of the first season of the animeDigimon Adventure (エンジェモン覚醒!, "Angemon's Awakening!"), an elderly man named Gennai appears to the Chosen Children/Digidestined and helps them with their journey. He reappears in the second season called Digimon Adventure 02 as a younger man. His Digimon Adventure design appears to be based on old-fashioned Japanese styles, and both it and his name were likely inspired by the historical Gennai.
- In the light novelHidan no Aria, Gennai is the famous ancestor of the Amdo Butei Aya Hiraga.
- In the 6th episode of the anime Sengoku Collection he is embodied in a genius and clumsy girl.
- In the anime Carried by the Wind: Tsukikage Ran, Gennai makes an appearance in episode 7.
- Takashi Yamaguchi played Hiraga Gennai in Tenkagomen, an NHK drama series (1971–72)
- In a mobile card turn-based video game Valkyrie Crusade, a female version of Hiraga exists as a card. Elekiter also mentioned with "her".
Media related to Hiraga Gennai at Wikimedia Commons
Column: Hiraga Gennai and Dutch Studies
Hiraga Gennai (1728-79) is representative of one of the ways people learned Dutch studies at the time. He was multitalented and was also an entrepreneur and popular writer among other pursuits, and his aim was to broadly contribute to society through the adoption of Western science and technology, and so he held the medical and pharmaceutical trade shows and also worked on producing fire-resistant blankets and the Elekiter (a static electricity generator). Although he could understand almost no Dutch, he collected the natural history works of R. Dodoens, J. Jonston and others, and also met with the chiefs of the Dutch factory during their stay in Edo on court journey. His work was not understood by the people of the time, however, and his lifestyle gradually declined until one day he accidentally killed someone, and he died in prison. His friend, Sugita Genpaku, noted his death with regret saying, "He was an exceptional person."
Portrait of Hiraga Gennai
Edited by Hara Yoshitane. Ms. 7 v. <か-74>
This book is a collection of portraits and biographical sketches of famous people. The portrait of Gennai (contained in Volume 4: Shirin bu) is a drawing showing him a little plump and differs from the generally known slim body of him, but it is written in the margin of the page that this portrait was originally drawn by Katsuragawa Gecchi (Morishima Churyo or Katsuragawa Hoshu), so it is thought to be the more accurate representation.
Record of the trade show held by Gennai
Edited by Hiraga Gennai. Osaka: Kashiwabaraya Seiemon, etc., 1763. 6 v. <特1-4>
This book classifies and introduces the articles displayed at the trade show held by Gennai in cooperation with his teacher Tamura Ransui (Genyu). The Dutch names of Chinese medicine, such as 'slangesteen', 'kaaiman', 'hagedis', etc. are included. Volume 5 contains 36 illustrations drawn by Kusumoto Sekkei (So Shiseki).
Commentary on the blanket made of asbestos by Gennai
By Hiraga Gennai. Osaka: Kashiwabaraya Seiemon, etc., 1765. 1 v. <特1-3434>
Komo kafu collected by Gennai
Sweerts, E.: Florilegium amplissimum et selectissimum.
Amstelodami: J. Janssonium, 1647-54. 2 pts. in 1 v. <WB32-2(41)>
This is a catalog of 560 different garden plants, and consists of 110 hand-colored copper engravings. The first edition was published in Frankfurt in 1612-15. It was also published in Amsterdam in 1620. What was obtained by Gennai in 1761 and called Komo kafu by him was an earlier edition published in 1631.
Komo kaifu collected by Gennai
Rumpf, G. E.: D'Amboinsche rariteitkamer.
Amsterdam: F. Halma, 1705. 1 v. <WB31-21>
This book introduces a study of marine organisms of Ambon Island (currently a part of Indonesia) together with 60 copper engraved plates. Gennai obtained the 1705 edition, which he called Komo kaifu.
Komo chufu collected by Gennai
Swammerdam, J.: Biblia naturae, sive Historia insectorum.
Leydae: I. Severinum, etc., 1737-38. 2 v. <YP19-327>
This edition contains the contents of Historia insectorum generalis published in 1669 that Gennai obtained and called Komo chufu. The end of Volume 2 shows illustrations of observations of mosquitoes and other insects under a microscope, and these were copied by Shiba Kokan and carried in Komo zatsuwa and were also used in Kusazoshi (illustrated storybooks).